Lowell Mountains wind project: The great divider

More than 50 people took a Green Mountain Power tour of its Kingdom Community Wind project,  Vermont’s largest capacity renewable energy project on Wednesday, July 3, 2013. Green Mountain Power is offering the public weekly tours of the turbines through the end of August. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

More than 50 people took a Green Mountain Power tour of its Kingdom Community Wind project, Vermont’s largest capacity renewable energy project on Wednesday. GMP  is offering the public weekly tours of the turbines through the end of August. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Driving up Vermont 100 from the south, massive 450-foot turbines loom on the horizon of the Lowell Mountains.

The 21 white wind generators ride the ridgeline for roughly 4 miles. From the side vantage points of Albany and Craftsbury, their uniform shape resembles that of Moby Dick swimming on a sea of green forest. To some, the turbines made by the Danish company Vestas look like mechanical insects, tarnishing the tops of picturesque mountains.

On July 3, the turbines were all spinning steadily, as more than 50 people came from across the state and beyond to take a tour of Vermont’s largest capacity renewable energy project. Green Mountain Power (GMP), which owns the 64.5-megawatt (mW) plant, is offering the public weekly tours of the turbines through the end of August.

Twenty-one 450-foot-tall wind turbines run along the Lowell Mountains ridgeline for 4 miles. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Twenty-one 450-foot-tall wind turbines run along the Lowell Mountains ridgeline for 4 miles. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

The entrance to the utility road that leads up to the turbines is just south of the junction of Vermont 100 and 58, past the signs on the houses that scream: “Green Mountain Power Destroyed this Home.”

Gert Tetreault, a part-time employee for GMP, greeted the caravan of visitors at the bottom of the steep hill. She was joined by her two grandsons, 11-year-old Colby Wright and 14-year-old Tyler Wright.

“I think it’s a great choice to have because solar power doesn’t work as well over here because we don’t have enough sun,” Tyler said about the project. “Also, it’s out of the way. People say you have to knock down a lot of trees, but I don’t think of it that way.”

Just up the hill at the operations and maintenance building, GMP spokesperson Robert Dostis administered an energetic pop quiz to dozens of visitors about the Kingdom Community Wind project, as it’s termed. For those who answered the questions correctly, he threw them a GMP Frisbee.

“What is the total amount of land that was conserved to offset the (project’s) 135 acres?” he asked.

“2,800 acres,” people yelled out.

Green Mountain Power spokesman Robert Dostis greets visitors to the Kingdom Community Wind project site. GMP is giving tours of the site through August. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Green Mountain Power spokesman Robert Dostis greets visitors to the Kingdom Community Wind project site. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

“On Lowell Mountain itself there are 1,100 acres that will be conserved; all but 280 in perpetuity,” Dostis said. “The 280 are for the life of the project, plus 25 years … The other land conserved is about 1,700 acres in Eden that is an important wildlife corridor between the Green River Reservoir and the Lowell natural area.”

The permitted life of the project is 25 years.

Vastly differing views and the dollars at hand

Since the Kingdom Community Wind project was proposed in 2009, it has done little to make a cohesive community of Lowell, the surrounding towns and interest groups across the state.

Environmental organizations have wound up at odds with each other. Hardline conservationists have pushed against the project and staunch renewable energy advocates have dug in their heels to protect it. Protests, arrests and passionate legislative battles have ensued since the project was erected. And numerous Vermonters have stuck to their guns on whatever side of the issue they first took to.

“There are people who don’t want it, people who do and people who don’t care,” said Albany Town Clerk Debra Geoffroy. “I don’t think people have changed their view from when it first came up.”

Detractors have thrown the kitchen sink at the project, arguing that it destroyed wildlife corridors, ruined natural watersheds, kills birds and bats, doesn’t produce to capacity, and creates noise and light pollution. Those in favor of the project say that the state can’t grow its renewable energy resources quick enough, and the project is generating significant revenues for Lowell and surrounding towns.

The town of Lowell voted 342-114 in the spring of 2010 to support the project, so long as GMP paid the town at least $400,000 annually. GMP has since agreed to pay Lowell $535,000 annually, with an automatic increase in payments of $32,500 every five years. That agreement lasts for 25 years and means that five years from now the town will bring in $567,500 annually, and in 10 years it will raise $600,000 yearly.

At this year’s Town Meeting, Lowell residents voted to pay down their municipal taxes with the funds and put the remainder into a reserve fund. For more on that issue, read here.

GMP also created the “Good Neighbor Fund” that will allocate dollars to the neighboring towns of Eden, Irasburg, Westfield, Albany and Craftsbury. The allocation is based on the amount the project generates and spent proportionally, based on the area of the town that is within a 5-mile radius of the project. Eden, therefore, will get the largest allocation of what GMP representatives expect to be a combined $180,000 yearly payout.

“It’s a huge disaster for Vermont” vs. “I think we need wind power”

On Wednesday, Robbin Clark and Justin Lindholm walked around the outskirts of the blasted out platform supporting turbine 5. They looked incredulously at the bare rock that was once forest.

Clark lives less than two miles from the project.

“It’s a huge disaster for Vermont,” she said. “The energy is not in demand. We are selling the renewable energy credits to other states that pollute. It’s just not solving the carbon emissions issue. There’s nothing about this project that makes sense.”

Lindholm is the Rutland County member of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board, and he works for Vermonters for a Clean Environment, a group that staunchly opposes ridgeline wind developments in Vermont. Lindholm says he began hunting moose in the Lowell Mountains seven years ago.

“Right now, moose are suffering; they can’t stand temperatures above 50 degrees,” he said. “They would sit on these mountains in the wet areas, but they won’t be doing that anymore.”

Lindholm’s biggest gripe is the amount of blasting that GMP did to level off the ridgeline. He has property in Lempster, N.H., home to a 24-mW wind project, and he said they didn’t blast rock in the same manner.

Justin Lindholm, the Rutland County member of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board who works for the advocacy group Vermonters for a Clean Environment, points to a spot where he used to see moose before Green Mountain Power built the controversial wind project on the Lowell Mountains ridgeline. Lindholm was on a GMP-hosted tour of the turbine site on July 3, 2013. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Justin Lindholm, Rutland County member of the Vermont Fish & Wildlife Board who works for Vermonters for a Clean Environment, points to a spot where he used to see moose before Green Mountain Power built the controversial wind project on the Lowell Mountains ridgeline. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

“It’s nowhere near as rugged where they had to blast this much,” he said. “They can do a lot better job of picking their sites. Their siting is no good.”

But George Sargent, who lives “three miles as the bird flies,” says he fully supports the project.

“I’ve hunted here my whole life, and I don’t see how they’ve hurt anything,” he said. “Ain’t changed nothing as far as I’m concerned.”

The noise from the turbines that Clark and many other critics of the site have criticized is a non-issue for Sargent. He says he can’t hear the turbines when he’s at home.

“I don’t have a problem with it,” he said. “I think we need wind power and more of it. I’d rather see that than see all of these dams going up. If a dam breaks loose, a lot of people could die; not many people are going to die from one of these.”

Ed Nedavaska, who lives 15 miles away in Irasburg, can see the mountains from his home. He says that in winter if he is within 5 miles of the project on a windy day, “You might be able to hear them.” But he also adds that the project doesn’t bother him.

“I’m not against them; I don’t have a problem,” he said. “I’d rather see the wind towers than the solar panels. … They take up a lot of property, if you ask me.”

Generation and reeling it in

The turbines’ 170-foot, 30,000-pound blades are comprised of carbon fiber skeletons and fiberglass covers. They attach to 273-foot towers and don’t begin turning until wind speeds reach roughly 8 mph.

Josh Castonguay, GMP director of generation, said that at wind speeds of 26 mph the turbines can hit full capacity, and at 55 mph they are shut down.

In September 2012, GMP bolted in the first turbine 12 feet deep, with anchor rods stretching down 40 feet. By the end of November, all of the turbines were up and running.

Castonguay said that since June 1 the company has kept the turbines from spinning until wind speeds of 10 mph are reached. The aim is to decrease the number of bat deaths.

“ANR and the experts say that at that wind speed the bats aren’t typically flying around,” he said.

The utility is seeking state authorization to kill up to seven bats per year. Since June 1, the company says its consultant, Stantec, hasn’t yet reported any bat deaths. Before that, two bats were found dead, along with 23 birds. Those numbers, Castonguay says, aren’t entirely representative of the death toll because they don’t take into account scavengers and human error.

GMP estimates that its 21 turbines will generate about 180,000 megawatt-hours (mWh) every year. To generate that much energy with solar would require about 800 acres, which is about six times the total acreage of the Lowell wind project, the utility figures.

GMP representatives say this is enough energy to power 24,000 homes. Considering Lowell has about 230 homes, according to the 2010 Census, this project could provide enough electricity in a year to power all of the homes in Lowell more than 100 times over.

Efficiency Vermont data from 2010, suggests that GMP’s estimate is conservative. According to that data, the average Vermont home uses 6,662 kilowatt-hours (kWh) of electricity a year, which would mean this project could power more than 27,000 homes, if it produces 180,000 mWh annually.

But the project provides power intermittently and not when it is necessarily in demand. Grid constraints also cause the plant to regularly curtail, or cut back, power production at times when the turbines are capable of producing more.

Anti-GMP signs are outside a house at the foot of the access road leading to the turbine site. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

Anti-GMP signs are outside a house along Vermont 58, roughly two miles away from the entrance to the project’s utility road. Photo by Andrew Stein/VTDigger

ISO New England operates the New England grid. The nonprofit corporation tells GMP how much energy the plant can generate for the grid, even if wind speeds allow for greater production.

“They essentially issue set points every day, and a lot of times, like today, the set point says you can’t do any more than 40 (mW), and we’re producing like 5 (mW),” Castonguay said. “Then, sometimes, there’s good wind speed and they say 40, when we’re doing 45.”

Curtailing energy production is a regular occurrence for the plant. GMP’s Colchester control center maintains the plant’s performance. If ISO New England says the plant can only produce 40 mW, and the plant could be producing more power, a control center operator simply pushes a button to reel in generation, Castonguay said.

“The blades will pitch and the generation system itself can be dialed in when the system hits 40,” he said. “It just stops producing energy.”

Sound and siting

This past winter, GMP commissioned sound studies to see if it was meeting the noise conditions of its permit.

According to its certificate of public good (CPG), its operating permit, the project is not to exceed sound levels of 45 decibels outside of neighboring homes and 30 decibels inside homes. In two instances, one in Eden and one outside of Lowell residents Don and Shirley Nelson’s home, the turbines exceeded 45 decibels. Seven Days’ Kathryn Flagg broke down GMP’s report to the state in detail here.

Castonguay said GMP uses much more advanced techniques to test for sound than were used in a $19,000 Public Service Department test in Sheffield that recently revealed nothing about the level of noise coming from that wind project.

“We actually shut the whole plant off every four to five hours for 20 minutes,” he said. Over a several day period, the utility’s contractor uses high-powered sound equipment and tests decibel levels with the plant on and off to get accurate sound readings.

The issue that led to greater noise levels in winter, Dostis said, was the snow buildup.

Jared Margolis is an attorney who represents the towns of Craftsbury and Albany. In a recent letter to the Public Service Board, the quasi-judicial board that regulates utilities, he wrote: “What is perhaps most concerning to the Towns is that GMP fails to provide any indication of how they will resolve these exceedances, which are not only violations of their CPG, but create conditions that endanger the public health.”

While the noise of the project has generated numerous complaints, the most oft-cited issue is how and where the project was sited. GMP officials say it’s as well sited as any project, and they didn’t blast any more than they needed to.

“We constructed this to have the least impact possible,” Dostis said. “You have this generation on a site that totals 135 acres. When we’re done with restoration the footprint will be closer to 90.”

Castonguay said that the site was designed with careful attention to the balance of the land.

“The rocks that were blasted were crushed and then used,” he said. “Anything excavated was used to refill, so there was next to no outside fill brought in.”

Albany and Craftsbury opposition

The eastern slopes of the Lowell Mountains and the 21 turbines are visible throughout the towns of Albany and Craftsbury.

A strong and vocal faction of residents and local government officials in those towns vehemently oppose the Lowell wind project. But when it was initially proposed, neither town took a vote to gauge the level of support or opposition.

Attending the tour of the Lowell Mountain turbines were, from left, Craftsbury Selectwoman Susan Houston, Craftsbury Conservation Commission Co-Chair Farley Brown, Craftsbury Conservation Commission project liaison Steve Wright, and liaison to the Albany Selectboard Mike Nelson.

Outside the Craftsbury Post Office are, from left, Craftsbury Selectwoman Susan Houston, Craftsbury Conservation Commission Co-Chair Farley Brown, Craftsbury Conservation Commission project liaison Steve Wright, and liaison to the Albany Selectboard Mike Nelson.

“The towns didn’t have a vote because we were not really well educated on the project. It came suddenly and very fast,” said Susan Houston, a Craftsbury selectboard member. “It was hard to get the ducks in order to say: ‘Wait, what do we think about this?’”

The movement of the project from its initial proposal to final completion took less than four years — a process that critics have panned for not allowing smaller towns a chance to digest the information.

Mike Nelson is the Albany liaison for the project for his selectboard. His parents, Don and Shirley Nelson, live at the base of the Lowell Mountains and have been ardently against the project since its proposal, refusing to sell or lease their hundreds of acres to GMP.

Nelson says the process was rigged in favor of GMP, and he blames it on Gov. Peter Shumlin and his administration.

“It is a foul, stinking administration down there,” he said. “They have absolutely turned me as cynical as possible about public participation in the government. … I am saying that the higher offices exercised a lot of pressure, and people were not able to do their job correctly, in my opinion.”

Nelson says the noise of the turbines makes him and his family ill.

“If you’re sitting inside in the winter with all of the windows closed, you can hear it over the top of the TV,” he said. “I’ve suffered a lot of sleep loss over the last six to eight months. If you walk up to it and listen, it doesn’t sound that bad. But if you live next to it constantly, and it never stops, it disrupts the internal clock in your body; it throws everything off and makes you sick.”

Not everyone in the two towns are opposed to the project, and Jimmy Jones, a Craftsbury selectboard member, says Houston is the only member of the board that is against it. He and selectboard chair, Bruce Urie, are neutral, Jones said.

On Wednesday, Houston and Nelson were joined by members of the Craftsbury Conservation Commission. Steve Wright, former Vermont Fish & Wildlife commissioner for Gov. Madeleine Kunin, is the commission’s lead liaison for the project.

Wright is an effective organizer and has staunchly opposed the project since it was proposed — pulling together protests, events and writing an op-ed in the New York Times about the issue.

Wright says the tiny town of Lowell was bought out.

“That level of financial influence has a huge affect on appropriate natural resources protection and therefore the long-term interests of the citizens and their town,” he said. “If we walk in and drop a bunch of money on the table, it changes the framework of the decision.”

Despite Wright’s best efforts, the turbines were built. But he and the others in Craftsbury and Albany, say that their cause is still not a lost one.

“It’s affirmed a certain notion that is; Vermont’s emotional, economic and ecological health comes from the mountains, and blowing up mountains is a direct assault on our health,” he said. “I think the people of the two towns of Albany and Craftsbury have helped make that point for the entire state, and in, some part, for all of New England.”

Updated at 10:08 a.m. on July 5, 2013.

Andrew Stein

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45 Comments on "Lowell Mountains wind project: The great divider"

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Matt Fisken
2 years 10 months ago

KCW wasn’t the first oversized electrical system foisted on Vermont, and it probably won’t be the last. Our ability to learn from our past mistakes will likely remain dwarfed by our attraction to shiny new things accompanied by enormous subsidies.

Bruce Post
2 years 10 months ago

Andrew, you wrote, “Hardline conservationists have pushed against the project ….”

If there is such a thing as “hardline”, there must also be something called “softline.”

I would be interested in your response to this question: What, pray tell, would be a “softline” conservationist?

Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago

This is a good summary of the situation. But it is impossible to weigh the costs vs benefits of this project without a clear picture of the electrical output on a daily basis. GMP’s airy estimates about energy production is not good enough. After all, its taxpayer money being spent here.

Let GMP direct the public to this information, unless they are willfully withholding it from the public discourse.

Frank Seawright
2 years 10 months ago

I think it should be even more detailed that you suggest. Production of each individual turbine should be reported so that a careful analysis can inform future site design and unit numbers. It may be that some of the turbines installed are so poorly sited that they don’t produce enough to justify having installed one there.

Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago
Heres my point: I don’t need a tour of the Lowell ridge to know what humans will do to keep the juice flowing– just Google Kosmos Washington or Riffe Lake and see for yourself. But that doesn’t answer the question about whether this project is worth the cost. There are lots of costs, but even a dispassionate assessment of the dollars and cents is not currently possible without more data. A call to ISO NE informed me that this is proprietary information. It shouldn’t be. I will gladly share my solar output data with anyone who asks, without being coy… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Don, Here is some data regarding Lowell. Capital Cost: GMP calculated the Lowell capital cost at about $160 million, plus about $10.5 million for a synchronous-condenser system, per ISO-NE requirements, to minimize voltage variations and instabilities of the Northeast Kingdom grid, for a total of about $170.5 million.   The above capital costs may not include transmission upgrades ($10,280,000) and substation upgrades ($3,160,000 or $17,420,000) of which Vermont Electric Cooperative will pay 41% and GMP 59%. See page 14 of URL. http://psb.vermont.gov/sites/psb/files/docket/7628LowellWind/Testimony%20&%20Exhibits/VOLUME%201/03.%20Pughe/Exh.%20Pet.-CP-5%20GMP-VEC%20LOI.pdf Production: GMP estimated the Lowell production at 63 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.336 = 185,570 MWh;… Read more »
Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago
Mr. Post: You cant argue a good case on estimates. They are by their very nature biased. Neither yours nor GMP’s are worth much by themselves; especially when hard data is available. Good stewards of public money would have seen to this; however, we seem to have a shortage of good stewards at the moment in Vermont. I suppose this could go to court; the “proprietary interest” argument seems weak to me since GMP does not have any competitors in particular. The public service board supposedly is working for the taxpayers, so perhaps they could sue for this information. No… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Don, The CFs used to calculate Lowell production were from production data reported by dozens of Northeast, New York, Pennsylvania wind turbine owners to the Federal Regulatory Energy Commission, FERC. Such data are superior to GMP estimates based on Vendor CF values. Here are some numbers regarding O & M costs of wind turbines based on field data collected in Europe and the US. Wind Turbine O & M Costs: Below URLs show recent estimates of US wind turbine O @ M varying by region: about $26,000/MW in Texas and Southwest; about $30,000 – $32,000 in the Great Plains and… Read more »
Annette Smith
2 years 10 months ago
Here are two photos taken of the same area, the ridgeline road as it goes east/west between Turbines 8 and 9. What you are seeing in the Before photo is the peak of the mountain. Note the orange limits of disturbance tape (very visible on the right, not as visible on the left, but the area between them spans the entire photos). For scale, note the person left of center. Everything between the two orange tapes was blasted away for the road. In the After photo you are seeing the exact same area, with lots of fill to build up… Read more »
Pam Arborio
2 years 10 months ago
I suggest everyone read the Mountain Occupiers website. Take a hard look at the before and after pictures. Consider the destruction of miles of ridgelines ans ask yourself if mitigating it by the donation of land somewhere else makes it “alright”. Please ask if any of the developers or management of GMP live close to this project, or any Industrial Wind Project. Read the studies being done in Canada on the serious health impacts of IWT’s. Ask what imtrmittent power does to an aging grid. Question the production figures touted of 35% and the true production figures of wind across… Read more »
Dave Stevens
2 years 10 months ago
Hello Pam I had just looked at the before and after pictures as you suggested, and there’s no doubt that the contrast is night and day. In addition, you do raise some valid arguments regarding the negatives associated with wind development. But you’ll have to forgive me, I’m “relatively” new to posting on Digger, and am neither an advocate or opposed to wind development at this point here in Vermont. And I’m sure your well aware that The posts have been predominantly by the opposition. So from as close to a neutral perspective as I can get, Your argument seems… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Dave, The Vermont 2011 Comprehensive Energy Plan, CEP, has a goal to have 90% of ALL Vermont energy (not just electrical energy) from renewables; even rich Germany does not have such extreme goals. Vermont would use much more electrical energy for electrical and thermal purposes, such as geothermal heatpump systems, plug-in electric vehicles, space heating, hot water heating, etc. Vermont’s consumption of propane, fuel oil, natural gas, gasoline, diesel, etc., would decrease. Energy systems engineers, such as Blittersdorf, Angwin, et al, calculated Vermont’s electrical energy would have to increase from about 6000 GWh/yr to 15000 – 18,000 GWh/yr by 2050,… Read more »
Dave Stevens
2 years 10 months ago
Hello Willem, Thanks for your response, its appreciated. You have certainly given me much info to look over. And I agree with you that renewable energy is and will be more costly per/kwh than conventional energy generation. So in short, what are you proposing that our energy generation portfolio look like? Do we purchase more energy from Hydro Quebec and/or Seabrook? Also if you would indulge me, stepping into the roll of an advocate (which I’m not), when the Kingdom Community Wind project was complete, people’s initial reaction wasn’t how cost effective or ineffective it could potentially be, it was… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Dave, 1) The proposed Northern Pass Transmission line will carry about 1,200 MW of HQ hydro power. The clean, low-cost energy, about 6 c/kWh under long-term contract, will go to New Hampshire and Massachusetts. If Vermont would allow a private company to run a 600 MW line from HQ to Vermont, the clean, low-cost energy would be a major boost to Vermont’s economy. The line and the energy would not cost one dime of Vermont taxpayer money and it would require no federal and state subsidies. 2) The new USDOE secretary has said the US should replace its nuclear plants… Read more »
Dave Stevens
2 years 10 months ago

Thanks Willem.

Richard Sedano
2 years 10 months ago

Too bad the people of Vernon didn’t do what Lowell did with creating a property tax reserve in the early 70s. Prudent.

Dylan Gifford
2 years 10 months ago

Very good point.

Megan Duni
2 years 10 months ago

This reminds me a lot of what’s going on with the Moretown landfill, the town of Moretown, and the public. I wish the landfill issue got as much coverage as this project does.

2 years 10 months ago
Don Peterson, your cost/benefit analysis question is fundamental and critical to industrial wind turbine (IWT) development. One would reasonably have expected the state to have well studied, documented and communicated the costs/benefits of IWTs to the people of Vermont. For months, I have been asking for the specific cost/benefit analysis that the state as done to justify the construction of the IWTs. To date, no data on any state cost/benefit analysis has been put forward by the state or anyone else on behalf of the state in response. Data relating the costs/benefits of IWT exists, but the state apparently doesn’t… Read more »
Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago
After thinking about it for months, I have decided that the data was never very favorable, but the project went forward anyway. Remember how they increased the turbine size at the eleventh hour? If we could see the output, and maybe even the initial test data, things would be a lot clearer. But it has to be hard data, publicly available, to be irrefutable. We should all work towards that. I’m not a paranoid person, but the more I learn about Vermont’s renewable energy policy, the more I realise that actual carbon reduction is the last thing on developers minds.
Annette Smith
2 years 10 months ago

ISO-NE released this memo on curtailment last week
http://www.iso-ne.com/pubs/pubcomm/corr/2013/curtailment_summary_2013.pdf.

2 years 10 months ago

Guillaume,

Thank you for the Lowell update. These were mostly winter months with “better” winds.

Do you have month-to-month CFs?

Heavily-subsidized Georgia Mountain, owned by Blittersdorf, on line end 2012, has had no curtailments, to my knowledge.

He would have month-to-month production data which he should make public.

If he has to report to the FERC, his data will become public anyway.

He has a PPA with Burlington Electric Company. I wonder how much BED pays per kWh.

Annette Smith
2 years 10 months ago
I heard there was curtailment of the Georgia Mountain project recently but have no details. The lack of transparency in the wind business should be unacceptable to anyone interested in moving our energy future in the right direction. As Northern Power Systems has shown with its site, it is entirely possible to provide real time information about the operation of wind turbines. This site shows the wind turbine at Bolton ski resort is currently generating electricity, and it gives the wind speed and direction and temperature: http://northernpower.kiosk-view.com/bolton-valley Neighbors of GMP’s Lowell wind project who call or write and complain receive… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Annette, The site shows 33.8 kW at 17.8 miles per hour, but, according to the performance curve, it should do 40 kW, i.e., the wind is too disturbed by the terrain to provide proper performance. http://www.northernpower.com/pdf/specsheet-northwind100-us.pdf http://northernpower.kiosk-view.com/bolton-valley How much less? (40/33.8 -1) x 100% = 18.1% less. If the CF with undisturbed wind were 0.20, then it would be 0.169 with disturbed wind. Lowell, etc., will have the same problem. This project was “sold” to the PSB with a CF of 0.34, totally unrealistic. The Bolton Valley Ski Area decided to be the first in Vermont to have a wind… Read more »
john howard
2 years 10 months ago

As viewed from parts of Greensboro and Craftsbury, this is not a “disaster” but most certainly is distasteful and could have been avoided. With all the talk and support in Montpelier for renewable energy, someone forgot that our Vermont ridge lines are not renewable and are one of our most valuable resources. Now we are stuck with them because of very myopic thinking.

Dylan Gifford
2 years 10 months ago

Lowell is stuck with nearly half a million dollars per year forever and this well will never run dry.

Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago

The town of Lowell is busy on several fronts attempting to spend themselves up to absorb this windfall. Don’t kid yourself– the taxpayers have demonstrated how much money they can afford to give the town, and in a few years they will be right back up there in real terms.

The well runs dry when the subsidies end, GMP sells their interest to a company with no assets, and the towers rust in the wind. I have an asbestos waste pile to prove it….

2 years 10 months ago
Guillaume, Thank you for the Lowell data. I made a spreadsheet. Here are the numbers for the first 6 months. I used commas to separate the values and totaled it for 6 months. 2013 Lowell, MW, 63 Days, MWh, CF Jan, 31, 9484, 0.202 Feb, 28, 9214, 0.218 Mar, 31, 7835 0.167 Apr, 30, 7334 0.162 May, 31, 10469 0.223 Jun, 30, 8390 0.185 181, 52726, 0.193 Below are some reasons Lowell is underperforming. CFs less than promised are likely due to:   – Turbulent winds entering 373-ft diameter rotors varying in speed AND direction under all conditions*; less turbulent… Read more »
Dylan Gifford
2 years 10 months ago

Great Cut and Pasting!

Wind turbine Syndrome is real and it is contagious.
It spreads through the community from person to person.
It’s a contagious idea, a purely mental condition that can be dangerous to ones health.
The best treatment is a placebo. Or perhaps two. Also Therapy.
Not making this stuff up. It’s actually a real thing.
http://blogs.discovermagazine.com/crux/2012/10/23/nocebo-doubt-about-it-wind-turbine-syndrome-is-catching/#.Ud3F3m2fgsg

don peterson
2 years 10 months ago

Willem:

How do these CF numbers compare to the projections that GMP used to sell this product to the Public Service Board?

2 years 10 months ago
Don, Production: GMP estimated the Lowell production at 63 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.336 = 185,570 MWh; or 180,003 MWh, adjusted for 3% voltage regulation losses. http://vermontspeed.com/project-status/ More Likely Energy Production: Based on 5 years of Maine ridge line production results, the Lowell CF is likely to be about 0.25 or less. More likely production = 63 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x 0.25 x 0.97 = 133,831 MWh/yr, or 134/5,800 x 100% = 2.3% of Vermont’s annual consumption. Wind Turbine O & M Cost: Below URLs show recent estimates of US wind turbine O & M varying by… Read more »
Annette Smith
2 years 10 months ago
The answer to Don’s question is a bit more nuanced. Sometime around 2005 or later (have never tracked it down), apparently the legislature passed law that allows wind projects to be considered through the PSB process without identifying the specific turbine models or size. In prefiled direct testimony, both 2.5 and 3 MW turbines were put forward by GMP as possibilities, and brochures were provided for two specific turbine models, Siemens 2.5 MW and Vestas v90 3MW. In rebuttal testimony prior to the technical hearings, GMP filed testimony with the PSB and disclosed that they were also considering Vestas V112… Read more »
Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago
So Willem is saying that the estimates were 33% CF but the experience is 20% CF, without knowing how much of that is lack of wind, and how much is curtailments from ISO NE. To chip away at this: The costs were estimated at X. The output was promised to be Y. The value to society of Y was sufficient to justify the loss of habitat and environment. But the value of the output turns out to be less than promised. IF GMP blames ISO NE for that reduction, the only way to prove that would be to disclose the… Read more »
Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago

There is another interesting facet to explore:
A recent announcement by GMP that they were raising their cut-in speed to 10mph to save the little bats any distress.

We’re going to have these seven bats in our news for some time to come; in the end the collapse of the western world will be the fault of those nasty environmentalists and their seven bats.

What is the cut in speed of those larger turbines compared to the smaller ones in the original proposal? The original cut-in speed mentioned was 7.5 mph.

Again, more live wind data would clarify things.

Annette Smith
2 years 10 months ago
Don, at a VELCO transmission planning workshop I attended a few weeks ago, the GMP person said that the curtailment of the wind projects in the NEK came as a surprise. ISO-NE’s interconnection study is a minimal study and does not guarantee the generator access to the grid for all its power. A more robust study is possible, but is currently not required. The wind data is never discussed or used during the PSB hearings. As I understand it, the wind monitoring data is of interest primarily to investors. The PSB never requests it and nobody ever gets to see… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago
Don, Soon we will have more Maine CF data for 2013. For 2012, Maine had an average CF of about 0.25. Lowell’s CF will be about the same, but with ISO-NE-mandated curtailment it is less, according to its own production data. 2013 Lowell, 63 MW Month, Days, MWh, CF Jan, 31, 9484, 0.202 Feb, 28, 9214, 0.218 Mar, 31, 7835, 0.167 Apr, 30, 7334, 0.162 May, 31, 10469, 0.223 Jun, 30, 8390, 0.185 Total 181, 52726, 0.193 (average CF first 6 months) “So it goes” says Kurt Vonnegut, may he rest in peace.
2 years 10 months ago
Annette “Production: GMP estimated the Lowell production at 63 MW x 8,760 hr/yr x CF 0.336 = 185,570 MWh; or 180,003 MWh, adjusted for 3% voltage regulation losses”. http://vermontspeed.com/project-status/ I derived my CF of 0.336 from the production (185,570 MWh/yr) quoted in the above URL. BTW, the 0.336 is grossly too high, and GMP’s 0.3578, is even more so. It is completely irrational, and a gross violation of a Public Trust, for the VT-PSB to accept such garbage numbers, when actual production data from dozens of wind turbine facilities in Pennsylvania, New York, and Maine were available from the FERC… Read more »
John Greenberg
2 years 10 months ago

The CEA report says: “Capacity factors for wind technologies varies [sic] considerably with the wind regime at the site. Based on Vermont sources, we have estimated a 33% capacity factor. However, there is a limited supply of these favorable sites, and capacity factors can fluctuate by as much as 10% downward over the course of a given year, regardless of the site selected.” (“Vermont Utilities Technical and Cost Issues of Generation Alternatives,” January 18, 2008, p. 23)

2 years 10 months ago
John, “Vermont sources”. Why were these sources never identified? Not then, and still not. Maine’s, Pennsylvania’s and New York’s IWT facilities were underperforming when the VPIRG report was in the process of being written, but 0.33 was used anyway. No facility in Pennsylvania, New York, New England has a CF of 0.33, almost all are much less than 0.33. http://theenergycollective.com/willem-post/169521/wind-turbine-energy-capacity-less-estimated Only one, Mars Hill, has a CF of 0.35 or better and some of its energy is exported to Canada, because of a lack of Maine transmission capacity, as in the NEK. CEA taking 0.33 from “Vermont sources” (see Note),… Read more »
Dylan Gifford
2 years 10 months ago
Great Article. Comments are even better. If we want to protect mountain top ridges, then they need to be protected, that takes money. The Longtrail is still woefully unprotected, and that’s where my charity contributions are headed. When I was hiking the long trail and spied wind turbines in the distance from the Glastenbury Wilderness area, I found them quite beautiful. They make sense, I think they are a great investment, and I would like it if we put a few of the biggest turbines possible right on top of Mount Mansfield so I could see them far off in… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago

Dylan,

And when we have many more of them, we will SEE AND HEAR them from just about everywhere, especially at night when winds are stronger, and when parents and children in the NEK and elsewhere are trying to get a good night’s sleep to be ready for the grind the next day.

The investments would be in the billion of dollars and it would not have any measurable impact on GW and CC.

Electricity rates would go through the ceiling, making Vermont’s economy LESS competitive, causing many people not to commute to work, but instead visit more often their unemployment office.

2 years 10 months ago
Annette, “GMP did know that the synchronous condenser was necessary, and spent its time arguing with ISO-NE that the costs should be socialized. ISO-NE rejected that claim…” “Socialized” is much too kind a word. GMP had the callousness to want a free pass, to get all others to pay for connecting Lowell to the NEK grid, plus make any NEK grid changes to ensure the variable wind energy could be fed into it. The cost would have been in the tens of millions of dollars and it would have taken some years. GMP wasted almost a year fighting ISO-NE, and… Read more »
2 years 10 months ago

So Klein, et al, the DPS and PSB were warned that the NEK grid was not capable of taking Lowell’s wind energy according to Willem Post. This sounds like a serious charge indicating either corruption or incompetence on the part of our elected and appointed officials charged with protecting the public good.

David Hallquist, is Mr. Post’s comment accurate? Let us know via a post in this space.

Beyond, these allegations cannot be left hanging. Andrew, how about a follow up article with comments from the cited officials/organizations on the charges leveled?

Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago

At the same time, lets report to the shareholders/ratepayers at VEC how their 12.5% investment in KCW is doing. This information should be forthcoming, if not now, then at the next shareholders meeting.

Don Peterson
2 years 10 months ago
So to sum up this thread: AN open house occurred at the Lowell Mtn Wind site. A splendid time was had by all. Meanwhile, the first six months of generation has been revealed, and it is 61% of the predicted output. GMP claims to have been surprised by curtailments from ISO-NE, which are partly to blame for the reduced production. Other factors, including lack of wind, may also be to blame. While GMP expected to have issues in transporting the power out of Lowell from the beginning, they hoped to get ISO-NE to pay for necessary equipment. ISO-NE declined. Cost… Read more »
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